Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
July 23, 1959
Now that you have said so much, let me say something will you? I have taken sleeping-pills three times, but I can’t get to sleep.
These are the ideas I want to talk about. I have read the comrades’ reports, speeches and documents, and talked to a certain number of them. I feel they have two tendencies and I want to say a few words about them here. One is the tendency to be touchy — with these people it’s very much a case of: ‘If you touch him he jumps.’ Wu Chih-hui used to say that Sun Fo jumped if anyone touched him. So some people feel the pressure; that is, they don’t want others to say bad things about them. They don’t want to hear bad things, only good things. I advise these comrades to listen. There are three kinds of words, and the mouth has two functions. A person has only one mouth and its duty is firstly, to eat, and secondly, to speak. Ears are for listening with. If someone wants to talk, what can you do about it? The trouble with some comrades is that they don’t like listening to bad words. But good words and bad words are all words and they should listen to both kinds. There are three kinds of words: one is correct, the second is basically correct, or not too correct, and the third is basically incorrect, or just plain incorrect. The two extremes are opposites: correct and incorrect are opposites.
We are under combined attack from within and outside the Party. The rightists say: Why was Ch’in Shih Huang overthrown? Because he built the Great Wall. Now that we have built the T’ien An Men we shall collapse; this is what the rightists say. I have not entirely finished reading the criticisms from within the Party. They were expressed in their most concentrated form by the Kiangsi Party School, but they are to be found everywhere. All the speeches of the rightists have been published, and the Kiangsi Party School is their representative within the Party. Some of them are rightists and wavering elements. They do not see the whole picture. But if we do some work on them, they will come round. Some of them have had problems in the past and have been criticized. Moreover they think we are in a mess. An example of this is the material from the Kwangtung Military Region. These things were all expressed outside the conference. Now we shall combine things from within and without the conference. What a pity that the summit of Lushan is so small. We can’t invite them all: the Kiangsi Party School, Lo Lung-chi, Ch’en Ming-shu, etc. This is the responsibility of the Kiangsi people. This building is too small!
Whenever they speak they say we are in a mess. This is fine. The more they say we are in a mess the better, and the more we should listen. During the Rectification Movement we invented the phrase, ‘Toughen our scalps and bear it.’ This is what I have said to some of the comrades, ‘Toughen your scalp and bear it.’ But how long do we have to bear it? One month, three months, six months, one year, three years, five years, eight years, ten years? Some comrades talk of ‘protracted war’. I quite agree. These comrades are in the majority.
Gentlemen, all of you have ears, so listen. They all say we are in a mess. Even if it is hard to listen to it, we must listen to it and welcome it. As soon as you think in this way, it ceases to be unpleasant to the ears. Why should we let the others talk? The reason is that China will not sink down, the sky will not fall. We have done some good things and our backbones are strong. The majority of comrades need to strengthen their backbones. Why are they not all strong? Just because for a time there were too few vegetables, too few hair-grips, no soap, a lack of balance in the economy and tension in the market, everyone became tense. People became psychologically tense. I did not see any reason for tension, but I was also tense nevertheless; it would be untrue to say I wasn’t. In the first part of the night you might be tense, but once you take your sleeping-pills the tension will go away for the rest of the night.
People say that we have become isolated from the masses, yet the masses still support us. I think this was temporary, just for two or three months before and after the Spring Festival. I think that we and the masses are now combining well. There is a bit of petit-bourgeois fanaticism, but not all that much. I agree with the view of our comrades, the problem is that of the commune movement. I went to Suip’ing and discussed the matter in detail for more than two hours. The secretary of the Party Committee of the Cha-ya-shan Commune told me that on the average, during the three months of July, August, and September, 3,000 people a day came for a visit. That makes 30,000 in ten days and 300,000 in three months. I hear that there was an equally large number of visitors at Hsu-shui and Ch’i-li-ying. They came from everywhere except Tibet to have a look. It was like the monk of the T’ang dynasty going in search of the scriptures. These people were all hsien, commune, and brigade cadres; there were also provincial and local cadres. Their reasoning was: ‘The people in Honan and Hopei have created the truth from experience, they have smashed Roosevelt’s “freedom” from want.’ How should we look upon such enthusiasm for communism? Shall we call it petit-bourgeois fanaticism? I don’t think we can put it that way. It’s a matter of wanting to do a bit more, it’s nothing else but wanting to do a bit more, a bit faster. Is this analysis appropriate? In these three months, there were three times 300,000 people going to the mountains to burn incense. We must not pour cold water on this kind of broad mass movement. We can only use persuasion and say to them: Comrades, your hearts are in the right place. When tasks are difficult, don’t be impatient. Do things step-by-s! tep. When you eat meat you have to do it one mouthful at a time; one bite won’t make you a fatty. Lin X eats a catty of meat a day and he’s still not fat, even after ten years of it. The ample figures of the Commander-in-Chief and myself were not achieved in a day and a night.
Those cadres are leading several hundreds of millions of people. At least thirty per cent of them are activists, thirty per cent are passive elements including landlords, rich peasants, reactionaries, undesirables, bureaucrats, middle peasants, and some poor peasants, and forty per cent follow the stream. How many people is thirty per cent? 150 million people. They are keen on running communes, communal canteens, large cooperative enterprises. They are very active, very keen to do these things. Do you think that this is petit-bourgeois fanaticism? They are not the petit bourgeoisie, they are poor peasants, lower-middle peasants, proletarians and semi-proletarians. Those who follow the stream are also prepared to do these things. There are just thirty per cent who won’t. Now thirty per cent and forty per cent equals seventy per cent — so at one time there were 350 million fanatics. They wanted to do it.
Then during the two months before and after the Spring Festival they became dissatisfied and changed. When the cadres went into the countryside they would no longer talk to them; they gave them only sweet potato gruel to eat and their faces were unsmiling. This has been called ‘blowing a communist wind’. We should make an analysis of this. Among these people there are some who are afflicted with petit-bourgeois fanaticism. Who are they? Those who ‘blew a communist wind’ were primarily hsien- and commune-level cadres, especially commune cadres who extorted things from production brigades and teams. This is bad. The masses disliked it. They were resolutely corrected and persuaded. It took about a month during March and April for the wind to be stilled. Those measures which had to be withdrawn were withdrawn, and the accounts between the communes and the brigades were cleared.
This period of over one month of settling accounts and education had its good effects. In a very short time they came to understand that egalitarianism was no good — ‘First equalize, second adjust, third withdraw funds’ will not do. I hear that the majority have come round and only a minority still hanker after ‘communism’ and won’t give it up. Where else can one find such a school, or intensive training course, which will enable a population of several hundreds of millions as well as several millions of cadres to be educated?
The things must be given back. You cannot say that what is yours is mine and just pick things up and walk off. No such rule has ever existed since ancient times. In another 10,000 years’ time people will still not be able to pick things up and walk off. The Red and Green Gang behaved like this, stealing and robbing away in broad daylight, expropriating the fruits of others’ labour without recompense, and violating the principle of the exchange of equal values. Sung Chiang’s government was called the Hall of Loyalty and Righteousness. He robbed the rich to help the poor and could take what he wanted since he had justice on his side. What they took belonged to the local despots and evil gentry, and so his code of behaviour was acceptable. What Sung Chiang took was ‘a birthday tribute’. His action was like our attacks on the local despots. He took their ill-gotten property. ‘Ill-gotten gains can be taken with impunity.’ What has been extorted from the peasants should be returned to the peasants. It is a long time since we attacked the local despots. When we attacked them, it was quite all right to divide their fields and return them to the people because they too were ill-gotten property. If we ‘blow a communist wind’ and seize the property of the production brigades and work teams, helping ourselves to their fat pigs and big white cabbages, this is quite wrong. Even when we deal with the assets of imperialist countries we have other methods: requisition, procurement and economic pressure. So how can we expropriate the working people’s property? How did we succeed in suppressing this wind within a month? It proves that our Party is great, just and correct. If you don’t believe it, I have historical material to prove it. In March, April and May, several million cadres and several hundred million peasants received an educa! tion. The situation was explained to them and they thought it out. It was mainly the cadres who had not understood that this kind of wealth was [not] ill-gotten. They could not make the distinction between the two kinds. They had not properly studied political economy. They had not clearly understood the laws of value, exchange of equal values, and remuneration according to work done. In a few months they were convinced and stopped doing it.
There may not be anyone who understands all this completely. There are some who have understood some of it, perhaps seventy or eighty per cent. If they have not understood the textbooks, let them study them some more. If the top cadres in the communes do not understand a little political economy, this won’t do. If people can’t read, you can explain it to them and they will understand a certain amount. They do not have to read books; they can be educated by facts. Emperor Wu-ti of Liang had a prime minister called Ch’en Fa-chih. He could not read a single word. When he had to write poems, he recited them and got others to write them down, saying: ‘You scholars are not as good as me, who learnt by ear.’ Of course I am not opposing the campaign to get rid of illiteracy. Old K’o said that everyone should attend university. I agree. But that would prolong the period of education to fifteen years.
In the Southern and Northern dynasties there was a general called Ts’ao] who wrote this poem after a battle:
When I went to war,
My children were sad.
On my return
I was greeted with horns and drums.
I asked someone passing by,
‘Knowest thou Huo Ch’u-ping?’
There was also the Song of Ch’i-lo by Hu-lü-chin of the Northern dynasties:
By the Ch’i-lo river, below the Yin mountains,
The sky is like a great canopy,
Spanning the plains.
The sky is blue, the wilderness is vast.
When the wind blows,
The grass bends and cattle and sheep appear.
Neither of these poets could read a word.
If an illiterate can become a prime minister, why can’t our commune cadres and peasants listen to some political economy? I think they can learn it. If it is explained to them, they can learn some political economy even if they can’t read. Explain it to them and they will understand it. In fact they can understand things better than intellectuals. I myself have not read the textbooks, and I have no right to discuss them until I have. We must squeeze out some time; the whole Party should run a study campaign.
Goodness knows how many inspections they have made. Since last year’s Chengchow Conference they have gone in for them in a big way. A report had to be made even when a sixth-grade meeting affected a fifth-grade meeting. The people from Peking talked and talked, but made no impression on them. We made many reports, but you did not get to hear them. I would advise comrades: since people have mouths, let them speak. You must listen to the other person’s point of view. I think that at this conference there are some problems which cannot be solved, and some people who will not give up their point of view, so they just procrastinate — one year, two years, three years, five years. It won’t do if you can’t listen to strange ideas. One should get into the habit of listening. I say we should toughen our scalps and listen. At the worst they will curse three generations of your ancestors. I know it’s not easy. When I was a boy, and when I was in middle school, I used to get all steamed up whenever I heard unpleasant things [about myself]. If people don’t attack me, I won’t attack them. If people attack me, I will certainly attack them. They attack me first, I attack them later. This principle I have never abandoned down to the present time. Now I have learnt to listen, to toughen my scalp and listen for one or two weeks and then counter-attack. I would advise comrades to listen. Whether you agree or not is your business. If you don’t agree and if I am wrong, then I will make a self-criticism.
Second, I advise some other comrades not to waver at this crucial time. I have observed that a proportion of comrades are wavering. They too say the Great Leap Forward, the General Line and the people’s communes are correct. But when they speak we must note on whose side they stand as regards their ideological tendency, and what is the thrust of their words. This group is in the second category: those who are fundamentally correct, but partly incorrect and a bit unstable. Some people will waver in times of crisis and show a lack of resolution in the great storms of history. There were four lines in our history: the Li Li-san Line, the Wang Ming Line, the Kao-Jao Line, and now the General Line. These people are not steady: they dance the Yang-ko dance (the Kuomintang said that we are the Yang-ko dynasty). They are terribly anxious in their desire to make things better for their country. This is good. What is the class background of this? Is it bourgeois or petit bourgeois? I shall not discuss this now; I talked about it at the Nanning Conference, the Chengtu Conference and the Party Congress. As for the people who wavered in 1956-7, we did not put tall hats on them; we regarded it as a question of ideological method. If we talk about the fanaticism of the petit bourgeoisie, then the opposite of this — the anti-adventurism of that period is the sad and dismal flatness and pessimism of the bourgeoisie. We are not going to put tall hats on these comrades. They are different from rightists in that they are all engaged in building socialism. It is just that they lack experience. As soon as the wind starts blowing and the grass waves, they become unsteady on their pins and turn anti-adventurist. Yet those who were anti-adventurist at that time have now stood firm. An example is Comrad! e En-lai. He has a lot of energy. After this lesson I believe that Comrade Ch’en Yün will also stand firm. Strange that the people who criticized En-lai at that time, this time find themselves in his shoes. They are no longer adventurous; they even give the impression of being anti-adventurist. For instance, they say: ‘While there is loss, there is also gain.’ The fact that they put the word ‘gain’ second is the result of careful consideration. For example, when it comes to putting on tall hats, this is the wavering of the bourgeoisie; or to fall one step lower, the wavering of the petit bourgeoisie. For the nature of rightists is to be constantly influenced by the bourgeoisie. Under the pressure of the imperialists and the bourgeoisie they have moved to the right.
There are about 700,000 production brigades; if each brigade makes one error, and you wanted to publish all 700,000 errors within a year, how could it be done? Moreover some articles are long and some short; it would take at least a year to publish them all. What would the result be? Our state would collapse and even if the imperialists didn’t come, the people would rise up and overthrow us. If the paper you publish prints bad news every day, people will have no heart for their work. It wouldn’t take as long as a year; we would perish within a week. To print 700,000 items all about bad things is not proletarian. It is more like a bourgeois country or party, like the political planning department of Chang Po-chün. Of course nobody present is in favour of this. I am exaggerating. But if we do ten things and nine are bad, and they are all published in the press, then we will certainly perish, and will deserve to perish. In that case, I will go to the countryside to lead the peasants to overthrow the government. If those of you in the Liberation Army won’t follow me, then I will go and find a Red Army, and organize another Liberation Army. But I think the Liberation Army would follow me.
I would advise some comrades to pay attention to the tendency of what they say. The content of your speech may be basically correct, but parts are not apposite.
If you want others to stand firm, you must first stand firm yourselves. If you want other people not to waver, you must not waver yourself: this is another lesson. As I see it these comrades are not rightists but middle-of-the-roaders. They are not leftists (i.e. leftists without quotation marks). I am talking about tendencies because there are some people who have run into difficulties. They have suffered broken heads and they are anxious. They were unable to stand firm; they wobbled into the middle of the road. The question is whether they are more inclined to the right of the middle or to the left of the middle. We must analyse this. They have gone the same way as those comrades who made mistakes in the second half of 1956 and the first half of 1957. They are not rightists, but they are on the verge of becoming rightists. They are still thirty kilometres away from the rightists. The rightists very much welcomed the trend of what they had to say and it would be surprising if they didn’t. These comrades’ brinkmanship is rather dangerous. If you don’t believe me, wait and see what happens. I am saying these things before a big audience. Some of what I say may hurt people. But if I remained silent now, this would not be in these comrades’ interest.
To the subjects which I have raised might be added another one: the question of unity. But I will write a separate piece on it: ‘Raise the banner of unity, unity of the people, the nation and the Party.’ I am not saying whether this is good or bad for these comrades. Even if it is harmful I must still talk about it. Our Party is a Marxist political party. Those on one side must listen; so must those on the other side. Both sides should listen. Didn’t I say I wanted to speak? One should not only speak, but also listen to others. I have not been in a hurry to speak: I have toughened my scalp to endure it. Why don’t I go on doing so? I have done it for twenty days already and it’s nearly time for the conference to adjourn. We may as well go on to the end of the month. Marshall came up to Lushan eight times. Chou En-lai came up three times. Why shouldn’t we come up once? We have every right to do so.
Now about the problem of canteens. Canteens are a good thing and should not be criticized too severely. I am in favour of their active and successful development on the basis of voluntary membership. Grain should go to individual households and any savings should be retained by individuals. If one third of the canteens in the whole country can be maintained, I will be quite content. As soon as I said this, Wu Chih-p’u became quite tense. Don’t be afraid. In Honan Province ninety per cent of the canteens are still running. We should try them and see how they go, not abolish them. I am talking on a nationwide scale. In dancing are there not four stages? ‘Stand on one side; try it out; dance as hard as you can; do or die.’ Does such a saying really exist? I am a rough fellow, not cultured at all. If one-third of the peasants, amounting to 150 million, persevere, then this would be wonderful. My next hope is for a half of them to do so: 250 million. If we can gain experience from such example as Honan, Szechwan, Hunan, Yünnan, Shanghai, we can do it and some of the canteens which have been disbanded can be reformed. We did not invent them; they were created by the masses. They had canteens in Hopei Province in 1956 before the establishment of the communes. In 1958 they were set up very rapidly.
Tseng Hsi-sheng said that canteens liberate labour power. I think that there is another point, which is that they save materials. Without the latter benefit they would not last. Can we do it? We can. My proposal is that the Honan comrades should carry out some mechanization, such as laying on running water, so that the water does not have to be carried. In this way both labour and materials can be saved. It is a good thing that half of them have now been disbanded. Commander-in-chief, I approve of your way of putting it, but I also differ with you. We should not stop disbanding them altogether, but neither should we disband too many. I’m a middle-of-the-roader. Honan, Szechwan, Hupei are all leftists. But a right wing has emerged. The Ch’angli investigation committee of the Chinese Academy of Sciences say that the canteens have no merit at all, attacking them on one particular point and not mentioning any others. They imitate Teng T’u-tzu’s ‘Ode on Love of Sex’. Teng T’u-tzu attacked Sung Yü on three points: he was handsome, sex-mad, and eloquent. Also he did not like his own wife and was very dangerous. Sung Yü retorted: ‘My good looks I owe to my parents, my eloquence is due to my teachers, and it is not true that I am sex-mad. No other place has such beautiful women as the state of Ch’u. Among the beautiful women of Ch’u, the most beautiful are to be found in my own district. And the most beautiful woman of my district is the daughter of my neighbour on the East. If you increased her stature by one inch she would be too tall, and if you decreased it by one inch she would be too short.’ ... Teng T’u-tzu was a tai-fu which is the equivalent of the head of a ministry today. His ‘ministry’ was a big one, like the Ministry of Metallurgy, the Ministry of the Coal Industry or the Mi! nistry of Agriculture. The investigation group of the Academy of Sciences attacked only one point and ignored the rest. The way they attacked was to concentrate on such things as pork, hairgrips, etc. Everybody has faults. Even Confucius made mistakes. I have also seen Lenin’s handwritten manuscripts which had been altered so much that they looked a real mess. If he had not made mistakes why did he have to correct them? We can have more canteens: after we have experimented with them for one or two years, I reckon that we can make a go of them.
Could the people’s communes collapse? Up to now not one has collapsed. We were prepared for the collapse of half of them, and if seventy per cent collapsed there would still be thirty per cent left. If they must collapse, let them. If they are not well run they are sure to collapse. The Communist Party aims to run things well, to run the communes well, to run all enterprises well, to run agriculture, industry, commerce, communications, transport, and culture and education well.
Many things have happened which we could not possibly predict beforehand. Hasn’t it been said that the Party does not concern itself with Party affairs? Now the planning organs do not concern themselves with planning: for some time they have not been concerning themselves with it. The planning organs are not confined to the Planning Commission; they also include other ministries as well as local governments. The local organs can be forgiven if for a time they did not concern themselves with the overall balance of the economy. But the Planning Commission and the central ministries have been in existence for ten years, and suddenly at Peitaiho they decided not to concern themselves with it. They called it a directive on planning, but it was tantamount to doing away with planning altogether. By doing away with planning I mean that they dispensed with overall balances and simply made no estimates of how much coal, iron and transport would be needed. Coal and iron cannot walk by themselves; they need vehicles to transport them. This I did not foresee. I and XX and the Premier did not concern ourselves with this point. You could say that we were ignorant of it. I ought not to make excuses, but I shall too, because I am not the head of the Planning Commission. Before August of last year my main energies were concentrated on revolution. I am a complete outsider when it comes to economic construction, and I understand nothing about industrial planning. At the West Tower [In the Chung-nan-hai, Peking.] I said: ‘Don’t write about [my] wise leadership, I do not control a thing so how can you talk about wisdom?’ But comrades, in 1958 and 1959 the main responsibility was mine, and you should take me to task. In the past the responsibility was other people’s — En-lai, XX but now you should blame me because there are heaps of things I didn’t attend to. Shall the person who invented burial puppets be deprived of descendants? Shall I be deprived of descendants too (one son was killed, one went mad)? Who was responsible for the idea of the mass smelting of steel? K’o Ch’ing-shih or me? I say it was me. I had a talk with K’o Ch’ing-shih and spoke of six million tons. Afterwards I sought out people to talk about it: XXX also said it was possible. In June I talked about 10,700,000 tons. Then we went ahead and did it. It was published in the Peitaiho communique; XX put forward some ideas and believed that it would be all right. With this, we rushed into a great catastrophe, and ninety million people went into battle. As I said, the person who invented burial puppets should have neither sons nor grandsons. Small native-type blast furnaces were built ... I read a lot of discussion reports; everyone said it could be done. Provided that we came to grips with the problem and worked really hard, we could raise the quality, reduce cost, lower the sulphur content, and produce really good iron. The Communist Party has a method which it calls ‘coming to grips’ with something. The Communist Party and Chiang Kai-shek have both got two hands. The Communist Party’s hands are communist hands. When they grip things they pick them up. We must take a grip on steel and iron as well as staple crops, cotton, oil, hemp, silk, tea, sugar and vegetables; also tobacco, fruit and condiments. There are twelve items in agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, subsidiary crops and fisheries, which must be grasped and which must achieve overall balance. Conditions vary in different localities. There cannot be a single model for every county. At Chikungshan in Hupi they grow bamboo in the mountains. It would be very wrong for them only to tend the crops and neglect the bamboos. There are places where tea and sugar will not grow. Things must be grown according to local conditions. Didn’t the Soviet Union make them ! grow pigs in Moslem areas? Ridiculous.
There is an article on industrial planning which is quite well written. As for the Party not concerning itself with Party affairs, the Planning Commission not looking after planning or drawing up overall balances, what have they been doing? They were not in the least worried about things. The Premier was worried, but they weren’t. If someone is not worried and they have no energy or enthusiasm, they will not do anything properly. Some people in criticizing Comrade Li Fu-ch’un, head of the Planning Commission, say: ‘His foot wants to move, but he hesitates; his mouth wants to speak, but he stammers.’ But don’t be like Li K’uei; impetuosity is no good either. Lenin was full of enthusiasm, which the masses liked. If people want to speak but can only stammer, it is because they have a lot of worries. During the first half of the month people had a lot of worries. Now these worries have all come out into the open. If you have anything to say, say it and it will all be written down in the minutes. Spoken evidence has to be written down. If you have things to say, then say them. If you find faults in me, then you should correct me. Don’t be afraid if your shoes pinch. I said at the Chengtu Conference that one should not fear the guardroom. One should not even be afraid of execution or expulsion from the Party. If a communist and senior cadre has so many inhibitions it is because he is afraid of saying the wrong thing and being corrected. This is what is called, ‘The wise man looks after number one!’ Disease enters through the mouth and trouble comes out through the mouth. If I cause trouble today, two kinds of people will not like it: one is the touchy ones and the other those whose direction is open to question. If you don’t agree with me then argue back. I don’t agree with the idea that the Chairman cannot be contradicted. Anyway the fact is that you have been contradicting me one! after the other, though not by name. The ideas of the Kiangsi Party School and of the Intermediate Party School both contradict mine. When I said that the inventor of burial puppets should have no descendants, I was referring first to the target of smelting 10,700,00 tons of steel, which resulted in ninety million people going into battle and the expenditure of — dollars of People’s Currency. ‘The gain did not compensate for the loss.’ This was my suggestion and my resolution. Next I was referring to the people’s communes. I do not claim to have invented the people’s communes, only to have proposed them. The Peitaiho Resolution was drafted according to my suggestion. At that time, it was as though I had found a treasure in the regulations of the Cha-ya-shan [Commune]. When I was in Shantung a reporter asked me: ‘Are the people’s communes good?’ I said: ‘They are good,’ and he published it in a newspaper. There was a spot of petit-bourgeois fanaticism there, too. In future reporters should keep away.
I have committed two crimes, one of which is calling for 10,700,000 tons of steel and the mass smelting of steel. If you agreed with this, you should share some of the blame. But since I was the inventor of burial puppets, I cannot pass on the blame: the main responsibility is mine. As for the people’s communes, the whole world opposed them; the Soviet Union opposed them. There is also the General Line. Whether it has any substance or not, you can share some of the responsibility for this. The proof is to be seen in its implementation in industry and agriculture. As for the other big guns, other people should also take some of the responsibility. Boss T’an, you have fired a lot of big shots, but your shooting was inaccurate, you had a rush of blood to the head and did not take enough care. You communized too quickly. It was talked about first in Honan, then accounts of it spread rapidly in Kiangsu and Chekiang. If you are careless in your speech, you will not keep control of things. You must be more cautious. Your strength is that you are energetic and willing to take responsibility; much better than those who are sad and dismal. But when you fire big guns on important questions, you should take care. I have also fired three big shots: the people’s communes, the steel smelting, and the General Line. P’eng Te-huai said that he was a coarse fellow with no refinement. I am like Chang Fei who, though rough, had a certain delicacy. About the people’s communes, I said that they were a system of collective ownership. I said that for the transition to be completed from collective ownership to communist ownership by the whole people, two five-year plans was too short a period. Maybe it will take twenty five-year plans!
If you want to talk about haste, Marx also made many mistakes. Every day he hoped that a European revolution would arrive, but it did not arrive. There were many ups and downs and it had still not arrived when he died. It only arrived in Lenin’s time. Wasn’t this a case of impatience? Wasn’t this petit-bourgeois fanaticism? (XX interjected: ‘Lenin said that conditions were ripe for world revolution, but it did not come.’) Marx at first opposed the Paris Commune, while Zinoviev opposed the October Revolution. Zinoviev was put to death later. Should Marx also have been killed? When the Paris Commune rose up he supported it, although he reckoned that it would fail. When he realized that it was the first proletarian dictatorship, he thought it would be a good thing even if it only lasted three months. If we assess it from an economic point of view, it was not worthwhile. We also had our Canton Commune, but the Great Revolution failed. Will our present work also fail, like what happened in 1927? Or will it be like the 25,000 li Long March, when most of our bases were lost and the Soviet areas were reduced to one tenth of their former size? No, it will not be like these. Have we failed this time? All the comrades present say there have been gains; it is not a complete failure. Is it mainly a failure? No, it’s only a partial failure. We have paid a high price. A lot of ‘communist wind’ has blown past, but the people of the whole country have learned a lesson.
I have spoken twice at Chengchow on the question of Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism. But these were only speeches. Now we must study it in depth, otherwise we cannot develop and consolidate our cause.
When talking of responsibility, XXX and XXX both have some responsibility, as does XXX of the Ministry of Agriculture. But the one with the most responsibility is me. Old K’o, does any responsibility rest on you for your invention? (Old K’o said: ‘Yes.) Was it lighter than mine? Yours is a question of ideology, mine of 10,700,000 tons and ninety million people going into battle. The chaos caused was on a grand scale and I take responsibility. Comrades, you must all analyse your own responsibility. If you have to shit, shit! If you have to fart, fart! You will feel much better for it.
[References are given here as provided by the Maoist Documentation Project. They are significantly different in at least one existing edition of Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. VIII. — Transcriber, MIA.]
[1.] Wu Chih-hui (1864-1954) was a leading figure in the anarchist movement at the beginning of this century, and perhaps the most famous Chinese eccentric of modern times. Sun Fo (also known as Sun K’o) was Sun Yat-sen’s son, an insignificant politician.
[2.] Mao is obviously referring here to the ‘Great Hall of the People’ and other edifices built during the Great Leap Forward, flanking the square in front of the T’ien An Men (Gate of Heavenly Peace), not to the gate itself, which dates from Ming times and was rebuilt in its present form in 1651.
[3.] Lo Lung-chi (1896-1965), a political scientist educated at the London School of Economics and Columbia University, was a leading member of the China Democratic League. He was Minister of Timber from 1956-8, when he was removed after being denounced for over-zealous criticism of the Party during the Hundred Flowers of 1957. Ch’en Ming-shu (1890-1965), a leader of the Kuomintang faction which chose to collaborate with the Communists after 1949, was also criticized in 1957.
[4.] The Cha-ya-shan Commune (also known as the Wei-hsing or ‘Sputnik’ Commune) in Suip’ing hsien, Honan Province, was one of the first communes set up on an experimental basis in the early summer of 1958; its draft regulations, adopted on 7 August 1958, served as a document for study throughout the country following the decision of the Central Committee at a meeting in Peitaiho on 29 August 1958. (For the Peitaiho resolution, and the Cha-yashan regulations, see Communist China 1955-1959 [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1962], pp. 454-6, 463-70.)
Ch’i-li-ying Commune in Hsin-hsiang hsien, Honan, and communes in Hsü-shui hsien, Hopei, were also among the earliest models, set up in the summer of 1958.
[5.] i.e., the Chinese monk who, in the seventh century, brought Buddhist scriptures from India.
[6.] Mao says below (p. 145) that he himself felt, in the summer of 1958, as though he had ‘found a treasure’ in the regulations of the Cha-ya-shan Commune. Here he suggests that visitors came to the three model communes in the same reverent spirit as Buddhists burning candles on the mountains at dawn.
[7.] Chu Te, who occupied this position most of the time from the union between his forces and Mao’s in 1928 until 1954.
[8.] A slogan prevalent among the peasantry in the summer of 1958, reflecting their understanding of communism as sharing wealth, rather than collective organization for production.
[9.] The Shanghai underworld in the 1920s was dominated by gangs which had grown out of secret societies with names such as this.
[10.] Sung Chiang was the leader of the outlaw heroes of the novel Water Margin, translated by Pearl Buck under the title All Men are Brothers (New York: John Day, 1968). The incident of the birthday tribute occurs in Chapters 14-16; this episode is translated in Cyril Birch (Ed.) Anthology of Chinese Literature (Penguin, 1967), pp. 448-84. For a similar comparison between the ideals of the Communist Party and those of traditional defenders of the underdog, see Mao’s appeal of 1936 to the secret society called the Ko Lao Hui: The Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung, pp. 260-61.
[11.] The Chinese text here says ‘that this kind of wealth was ill-gotten’. This must be a misprint, since Mao is criticizing leftist errors of confiscating things that ought not to have been confiscated, and is making the cadres responsible for these excesses.
[12.] K’o Ch’ing-shih (1902-65), a member of the Politburo, was then Mayor of Shanghai, and head of the Shanghai Party organization, as well as being First Secretary of the Eastern Bureau.
[13.] Ts’ao (457-508) [i.e., Ts’ao Ching-tsung of the Southern Liang dynasty], who had originally distinguished himself by his prowess as a hunter, helped to establish the Liang dynasty in 502. In the poem, he identifies himself with Huo Ch’ü-ping, a general of Han Wu Ti who distinguished himself against the Huns.
[14.] As already indicated (see above, Talks at the Chengtu Conference (a), note 2), the official viewpoint at the time of this speech regarding lines in the 1930s is given in the ‘Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party’, adopted on 20 April 1945, in Selected Works, Vol. III, pp. 177-225. The ‘Li Li-san Line’ of 1930, and the ‘Left Opportunist Line’ promoted by Wang Ming and the other representatives of the ‘Returned Student Faction’ in the years 1931-5 are discussed both there and in the many Western accounts of this period. The Kao-Jao Line is discussed in Mao’s speech of 10 March 1958 (Talks at the Chengtu Conference (a) and notes 8 and 10 to that text) [and comrade Mao’s “Speeches At The National Conference Of The Communist Party Of China”, S.W. Vol. V, pp 154-171]. The juxtaposition of these three deviationist lines with the General Line of building socialism ‘more, faster, better, and more economically’, put forward by Mao in 1956 and with which he continued to identify himself, is slightly odd.
[15.] Folk songs and dances adapted to carry a political message, widely promoted in the Yenan base area beginning in 1942.
[16.] The custom of parading people in dunce caps in order to humiliate them has a long history in China; its modern manifestations extend from the activities of the Hunan peasants, chronicled by Mao in 1927, to the Cultural Revolution.
[17.] Chang Po-chün, Minister of Communications and leader of the China Democratic League, criticized the Chinese Communist Party severely in the spring of 1957, and then recanted in July. His case thus paralleled that of the editor of his party’s newspaper, Ch’u An-p’ing (see note 72 to Talks at the Chengtu Conference). He was removed as minister in early 1958.
[18.] General George C. Marshall organized a number of meetings on Lushan while US mediator in China in 1946-7.
[19.] Wu Chih-p’u (c. 1906 ), at this time First Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party for Honan province, who had taken the lead in establishing communes in the summer of 1958. For the background to Mao’s remarks here, see his discussion of the role of Honan as the vanguard of social change in his speech of 20 March 1958 (Talks at the Chengtu Conference (b), pp. 104-5). He was demoted in 1961 for ‘adventurism’.
[20.] Tseng Hsi-sheng (c. 1905- ), a graduate of Whampoa who participated in the Long March, was elected to the Central Committee in 1956. He was also First Secretary of the CCP for Anhwei province, from 1952 to 1960, and in that capacity he showed himself a strong supporter of the Great Leap Forward. He faded from the political scene in the early 1960s.
[21.] Teng T’u-tzu, a high official of the state of Ch’u, offended in this way Sung Yü, a nephew of the famous poet Ch’ü Yüan, who attacked him in return (fourth century B.C.).
[22.] A quotation from Book 1, Part A, Ch. 4 of Mencius (p. 52 of D.C. Lau’s translation) referring to the practice of burying wooden figures with the dead so they might be their servants in the hereafter. According to another passage from the classics (Li Chi, IV, 19), Confucius regarded this custom as inhuman because it suggested metaphorically the idea of burying actual human beings for the same purpose. In subsequent Chinese usage the expression ‘he who first made burial puppets’ has come to designate the author of any diabolical invention, or more generally the bringer of misfortune.
[23.] The two referred to are Mao’s sons by his first wife, Yang K’ai-hui. The eldest, Mao An-ying, born in 1922, was killed in 1950 in Korea. The younger, Mao An-ch’in, was left with a ‘bourgeois’ family following his mother’s execution in 1930, and was so mistreated, according to Red Guard sources, that his mind was affected.
[24.] A good-hearted but exceedingly short-tempered figure in Water Margin, whose personality is conjured up by his nickname, ‘Black Whirlwind’.
[25.] T’an Chen-lin (1902- ), Politburo member and the Party’s top agricultural spokesman in 1958, had espoused radical policies in the countryside at the time of the Great Leap Forward. He was made a vice-premier of the State Council in April 1959, and was regarded as a spokesman for Mao Tse-tung.
[26.] P’eng Te-huai (1898- ) Minister of Defence, who launched a sharp attack on the Great Leap policies at the Lushan meetings. In his ‘Letter of Opinion’, dated 14 July 1959, P’eng had excused his frankness by saying that he was a simple fellow like Chang Fei (one of the heroes of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms), but shared only Chang’s roughness, not his subtlety. Mao’s remark echoing this sentence is an obvious warning to his adversaries that he possesses both a subtle tactical sense, and the firmness (or harshness) to act as circumstances may require.
[27.] The abortive uprising in Canton in December 1927. On December 11, 1927, the workers and revolutionary soldiers of Canton united to stage an uprising, and set up the people’s political power. They fought fiercely against the counter-revolutionary forces, which were directly supported by imperialism, but failed because the disparity in strength was too great.
[28.] Mao himself shortly produced some comments on Stalin’s last work, as well as a much more detailed analysis of the Soviet manual on political economy published after Stalin’s death. See his (undated) remarks on Stalin’s 1952 essay, followed by notes (dated 1960) on the Soviet textbook in Wan-sui (1967), pp. 156-66 and 167-247. Another version of the latter, dated 1961-2, appears in Wan-sui (1969), pp. 319-99.
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung